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Road Trip 2014 – Part II

Yellowstone……Yellowstone……….Yellowstone! Until you have been, you just can’t realize how beautiful this country we live in is, or how beautiful this planet is! The WOW factor was really big here! The five nights we spent weren’t nearly enough to see everything it had to offer! We rolled into camp at the Grant Village Campground. It is accessed from the south entrance of the park! It is a very nice campground with plenty of amenities: store, gas, propane, laundry, and showers. our site was situated right on the shore of the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake! Each morning you could hear elk bugling and some nights coyotes and wolves were heard in the distance. It was here that we also experienced some of the coldest nights of the trip, one night dropped to a bone chilling 17 degrees! The first thing we wanted to see was Old Faithful, of course, but there was a problem, the direct route was closed due to a bridge replacement. The only way to it was a circuitous 86 mile one way route. Now you might see that as a draw back, but it made us see allot of the park just getting there! We saw sights like the Hayden Valley which was usually full of bison, the Norris Geyser Basin, Artists Paintpots, Monument Geyser Basin, Firehole Falls, Biscuit Basin, just to name a few!

This fantastic scenic tour of the park ended at Old Faithful. We got there just in time to see it blow! Timing couldn’t have been better! We checked out the Old Faithful Inn was built in 1903-1904 with local logs and stone, the Inn is considered the largest log structure in the world. It almost burned down in one of the parks many wildfires! Especially one of the park’s largest fire in it’s recorded history, the fires of 1988. We saw the evidence of that massive all throughout the park in acres of dead trees, which was unfortunate, but it’s Nature!

We discovered a good way to explore the park was in sections. One section we spent one of our days in was the canyon section. I never realized there was a “Grand Canyon” of Yellowstone! My gawd it was beautiful!!!! The Yellowstone River runs through the canyon and provides visitors with multiple scenic falls to visit! We spent our time at the Brink of Lower Falls! We made hikes on both sides of the falls and saw them from different angles. One of the hikes was on Uncle Tom’s Trail. Prepare yourself if you ever take this hike because it is STEEP and you will get a helluva workout!

We heard talk from people we met looking for wildlife that a good place to go was the Lamar Valley. Apparently it is a hot spot for all kinds of creatures and there was a bison carcass that had been attracting wolves, coyotes, and even some bears! One morning we got up before daybreak and headed out! It was in the 20’s as we sat in the darkness waiting for sunrise. Thank you Richard for bringing the portable propane fire pit to keep us warm! So we hung out for awhile and saw plenty of bison and pronghorn but nothing else. The girls took off to make a coffee run and had the best of luck. They first got caught in a bison march right on the highway. They were walking right next to the truck. Then continuing back they saw a bear by the side of the road! The boys got ripped off!!!! We scouted a few other areas in search of four legged beasts, but came up empty. We explored more geothermal wonders on the way back to camp such as the Sulphur Caldron and the Mud Volcano. Both were amazing and extremely smelly. The stench of rotten eggs hung thick in the air. As hostile as an environment like this was, you could still notice animal tracks all over the place. Maybe they came to hang out for the heat on chilly nights!

Well we hated to leave, but it was time to head to our next destination, Cody. Yellowstone, we will return to continue to explore your beauty! We traveled through the Sylvan Pass and out the east entrance to the park and dropped into the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming and entered the wild west town of Cody! My first impression was that it reminded me of my hometown of Alamogordo, NM but not as dry. While we loved Jackson Hole, it seemed a bit touristy and Cody was a working town but nice on it’s own! It is named after William Frederick Cody, primarily known as Buffalo Bill, from William Cody’s part in the creation of the original town. Everywhere you look, you see the old west, cowboys, cattle ranching and by looking at the surrounding landscape, you can tell the weather is harsh! Our living spots for the next couple days were located at the Ponderosa Campground. It was near the center of town and everything was within walking distance for the most part. Just down the street was the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a fascinating museum that contained four to five other museums. Days can be spent there in the Plains Indian museum, natural history museum, the Buffalo Bill Museum, gun museum, and much more. There just wasn’t enough time to see it all. We had to explore the rest of the town of course. We spent an evening walking downtown and checking out all the cool western shops and had drinks at the Irma Hotel,  built by William Cody in 1902 and named it for his daughter, Irma. We watched the fun, but slightly cheesy nightly gunfight in the street outside the hotel and then ambled over to the Silver Dollar Bar. Another half a day was spent looking over the Old Trail Town museum! ‘On this site in 1895, Western scout and showman William F. (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody laid out the original townsite of Cody, Wyoming, which was named in his honor. Today Old Trail Town preserves the lifestyle and history of the Frontier West through a rare collection of authentic structures and furnishings. From remote locations in Wyoming and Montana these historic buildings were carefully disassembled, moved and reassembled here at Old Trail Town by Western historian Bob Edgar and friends. Located here also are thousands of historic artifacts from the Old West and grave sites of several notable Western figures. Among the is the grave of mountain man John Johnson, who was portrayed by the actor Robert Redford in the 1972 motion picture “Jeremiah Johnson”. Here too are original cabins used by Old West outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and a Wyoming saloon frequented by Cassidy’s “Hole-in-the-Wall Gang”. Also on this site is the log cabin home of “Curley” a Crow Indian army scout who helped guide Lt Col. George A. Custer and the U.S. 7th Cavalry to the battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Old Trail Town exists today as a memorial to the uniquely American experience known throughout the world as “the Old West”.’ I LOVE THE OLD WEST!

Now for some reminiscing. There was a town just a few miles away called Lovell. When Debbie was a child and first came to America from Wales, she and her family landed here. She spent about five years here and went to primary school. Well being so close and she hadn’t been back in decades, we took a drive to see her old stomping grounds. We found the house she lived in, the school she went to, and drove by the Western Sugar Factory where her Dad worked. As for the town itself……well it is a little rough around the edges and time hasn’t been very kind to the place. She enjoyed going back as we did too. As for the uneventful drive back home that, my friends, was our vacation and it was one that will never be forgotten. Debbie has uploaded the photos to One Drive and here is the link to the album! Thanks for reading and can’t wait for the next adventure!

Road Trip 2014 – Part I

The month of September started off with one of the funniest vacations ever spent with great friends! Two weeks of road tripping through Northern Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming in a three truck/trailer convoy began at the North Bend Safeway parking lot on the morning of September 5th! Destinations included Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and Cody, Wyoming! The first two days basically consisted of covering miles just making overnight stops. The first stop was the Wolf Creek Lodge Campground, located just east of beautiful Lake Coeur d’Alene in North Idaho. It was a beautiful setting and the drive along the lake was awesome. We never really knew how big and gorgeous Lake Coeur d’Alene is! We made note that it would be a future destination to hang out and explore! The second night was spent in Dillon, Montana at the Countryside RV Park. We had our first snafu as one of our trailer mates, Bob, noticed one of his trailer tires failing. Since we were kind of in the middle of nowhere, he decided to put on the spare and ride into our next destination to get it fixed.

The first place we stopped and actually spent some time in was in Jackson, Wy. We camped just north of the town at the Gros Ventre Campground. Our drive to there took us through northern Idaho which was full of scenery, small towns, and plenty of potato fields. We then headed over Teton Pass which was stunning and a bit scary as the highway grades were very steep at 10% grade. The truck brakes got a little heated and Debbie a lot scared! The campground was nice and set along the Gros Ventre River. We heard from other campers that if you were up early enough, moose would wander into the grounds and graze. We did just that and saw plenty of them!

We also saw lots of bison, pronghorn, and deer! It was too bad other humans we encountered were so aggressively trying to get so close to the wildlife to grab a camera shot, that they actually scared them off….idiots! We also encountered some wild weather while we were there as on two afternoons, lightning and thunder rolled right over the campground and did some serious booming!!! Once again Bob had trailer problems as his batteries failed. We went into Jackson and had his tired and batteries replaced. While we were there we toured the town. I loved it, even though it was a bit touristy! We shopped, took pictures, explored, and had to make a stop at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar! Other days were spent driving around Grand Teton Park and hiking near Jenny Lake and going to the top of Signal Mountain Summit were we saw great views of the Jackson Valley! What a beautiful place this country is! Our final night, with a not to be missed recommendation from a fellow camper, we went to the Bar J Ranch Chuckwagon for a cowboy chuckwagon meal and show! It was wonderful! Great food and fun entertainment and stories of the wild west cowboy days and how they ate, and worked on the cattle drives, and songs they sung around the campfire!  If you are ever in Jackson Hole during the summer, head over to Wilson and check it out. Go hungry and ready to have a great time! With batteries replaced, new tire, and great memories, we were ready to head for our next destination…..Yellowstone, coming in part II!!!

Our Southwest Vacation

We have enjoyed a wonderful 10 day vacation to the Southwest and it was packed full of adventure, travel, sights, enjoyment, fulfillment, and reconnection. We started by flying to Las Vegas where we rented a car and headed out. Las Vegas was just a starting point and did not spend any time there. Renting a car in Vegas looks like it should be an easy organized task but it wasn’t for us. First you take a bus to the rental car building where all the rental companies are all together. I thought this was going to be a good idea! We went in and found our company Thrifty and saw the line of people waiting. It looked like the screening line into the gates at the airport. After that 45 minute wait, we were given our paper work and headed up to the garage where we stood in yet another line. What a mess! Don’t you just get your car assignment when you get your paper work and just head out to the space where the car is??? Well not here. We waited and waited because they didn’t have any cars. Finally they brought up a bunch and started the line. We were supposed to get an economy car like a Chevy Aleo or similar. When it was our turn, the guy asked us what we had and I couldn’t remember, so he just pointed to a 2008 red Mustang and asked if we wanted that! Well hell yes we did and were finally off in a nice ride!

Our first stop was Kanab, Utah! We were going to spend the first three days there visiting and volunteering at Best Friends Animal Society. Now if you have watched the TV show Dogtown on the National Geographic Channel, then you are familiar with Best Friends. What a wonderful place it is and it was better than either of ever expected. Best Friends is a no kill animal rescue/sanctuary that cares for around 2000 animals at any given time. They care for dogs, cats, pigs, birds, horses, and goats and employ 400 staff members and host many many volunteers. It is run mainly from the donations of the 250,000 members and it is run very well from what we saw. Our volunteering stint had us cleaning dog runs, walking dogs, feeding and socializing with pigs, and spending time with many cats! We loved it!! We even had two dogs come to our motel on two different nights for a doggie sleep over! They allowed to take two dogs with us for an overnight visit with us which helps the animal get used to being out with people and other dogs. It also helps them get used to the noises of everyday life like TV’s, cars, traffic, phones, kids, etc. Many of these animals are abandoned, abused, hoarded, and rescued from disasters. Some of their stories will just break your heart, but it was nice to see that they are now very well taken cared of and deserve the pampering they are getting at Best Friends. Most of these animals are being prepared for adoption, but if they are not or have issues that will not allow them to be adopted, then they will live out their lives at the sanctuary!!! If you are wondering….. we did not leave with any animal, but we will definitely be returning for more volunteer vacations!!!

Our next stop was at Bryce Canyon National Park on the way to Cedar City, UT. Now I have been to Bryce Canyon before, many years ago, but Deb had never seen it. It was a beautiful as I remembered and we did quite a hike while we were there. We then visited one of Debbie’s former co workers that has retired in Cedar City, Alan and Travis Hoppes. We stayed at their very lovely home and enjoyed a fantastic restaurant. Deb and I really liked Cedar City and it will be a future destination when we come back. It might not be a place to retire to when we are ready, but that’s way down the road. We then left and made a journey to Zion National Park which was different from Bryce Canyon but just as beautiful. There we did another hike and enjoyed the scenery. If you haven’t visited southern Utah, you must take a visit. The countryside and views will astound you. It is gorgeous down there!!!

We headed into Arizona for an overnight in Flagstaff. We drove right by the Grand Canyon, but it was dark and our itinerary didn’t allow for any time to be spent there so it will have to be on the list for our next visit. From Flagstaff we headed into western New Mexico. We made a stop in Mogollon which is an old mining town that no longer exists as a vital town although there are people that live there and we met a few. I don’t know how they do it as they are far off the beaten path. They probably like it that way that’s probably why they live there. It is kind of a spooky place and we were there in the day time. From there we stopped in Silver City, NM and visited my uncle Herbie and aunt Brenda. I hadn’t seen them in over 15 years! We had a nice visit and dinner with them. They are full time RV people and live in it! They had it parked at their son’s (Tyson) place. We went out and saw it and visited with him and his family. It had been even longer since I had seen him. It was great to see them all and know that they are doing good and are healthy!

The final leg of the journey took us to my home town of Alamogordo, NM. I was born and raised here and still have family left there. Allot of the family is there but reside in the town cemetery!! We visited my uncle Butch and aunt Sharon and cousin Lorie. My other cousin Jo Ann and friend Lisa drove over from Carlsbad and met us in Mayhill, NM for lunch and a great visit! We also drove by houses, schools, different points of meaning in my past and it was very poignant to revisit what was my childhood. Finishing off our vacation took us down to the hell hole of Van Horn, Tx. Sorry to any of you that have a connection to the town, but it really is a hell hole! Most of the town looks like it had died on the vine as many buildings that had housed former businesses were abandoned and crumbling. Even former gas stations were closed. Most of what was left were motels and there is a golf course nearby, but not much else. What took us down there was some land we hold that has been handed down to me from family. Since we were in the area and had one last day to kill, we decided to go down and have a look! We did learn allot about it and even found the location of where it was and even drove there to have a look. We weren’t able to get to the exact property as it was not accessible by car, as far as we could tell, but we did get a general idea where it was…… basically in the middle of nowhere! Our last stop was El Paso where we dropped off the car and flew home! It was a jam packed vacation and was allot of fun! You can check out our pictures by clicking here and soon I will have podcasts posted at my newest podcast Just Joe Podcast, so go and check both out!!! That’s it for now, finally!!!

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